Could Hungarian physicists have found the fifth force of nature? It could mean a no-brainer Nobel Prize and probably a connection between our visible world and the dark matter.
Physics – as all branch of sciences – would like to explain how the universe works with some very simple equations, a unified field theory. Today, we know about four forces – gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong force – shaping our universe but there are a lot of phenomenons we cannot explain yet so there might be a good chance that there are other forces, as well – CNN reported.
Scientists at the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Atomki) have posted findings showing what could be an example of that fifth force at work. They were closely watching how an excited helium atom emitted light as it decayed. However, the particles split at an unusual angle – 115 degrees – which
could not be explained by known physics.
The study’s lead scientist, Attila Krasznahorkay, told CNN that this was the second time his team had detected a new particle, which they call X17 because they calculated its mass at 17 megaelectronvolts. He added in an email that “X17 could be a particle, which connects our visible world with the dark matter.”
Jonathan Feng, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California at Irvine, believes that Professor Krasznahorkay’s findings can be a game-changer and might mean a no-brainer Nobel Prize if the experiments can be replicated. The current results are
based on a paper published in 2016
when Krasznahorkay’s team was experimenting with another isotope, beryllium-8. As it decayed down to a ground state, they detected particles (electrons and positrons) splitting off from the atom at unusual angles.
“We introduced a new particle that nobody saw before, and [whose] existence could not be understood by the widely accepted ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics, so it faced scrutiny,” Krasznahorkay said in an email to the CNN. Of course, nobody can exclude for sure that there was a lab error though no scientists could prove something like that yet. But physicists in California gave a scientific explanation to what happened. They say that there is
a protophobic (afraid of protons) fifth force in the universe.
To prove that they were right, the Hungarian team had to repeat the experiment which happened this year. Feng says that, barring experimental error, there was only a one-in-a-trillion chance that the results were caused by anything other than the X17 particle, and this new fifth force. He added that if another research group could repeat these results with a third type of atom in addition to beryllium and helium, “that would blow the cover off this thing.” Experimental research groups have already been contacting Professor Krasznahorkay, hungry to do that because this fifth force is probably able to provide power.
Featured image: The economic sciences medal.